One of things we like about the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is how it keeps things simple. It zeroes in on basic human suffering and tries to make things better. The foundation is not out trying to win awards for being cutting edge, or talking up its giving with a lot of buzz words. It's just trying to do good, tackling issues like blindness, natural disasters, safe drinking water, and children with AIDS.
Don't get us wrong. The foundation can be plenty innovative in its work. Take, for example, its new homeless initiative in LA.
An estimated 2,400 homeless people in Los Angeles county may now have a safe place to sleep, thanks to a new $18 million public-private partnership. The Hilton Foundation has teamed up with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) to create a new supportive housing rental program called the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool.
The program is geared at homeless people in the county who have severe physical and behavioral health conditions, and aims to improve health outcomes while reducing costs to the public health system. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved $14 million to go towards the program over the next four years, including $1 million from the Office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and $13 million from DHS. Meanwhile, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation kicked in another $4 million to support the program over the next two years. (Read Conrad Hilton Foundation: Los Angeles Grants).
This massive health+homelessness project emerges in the wake of the Affordable Care Act and state legislation that reduces Medi-Cal funding for chronically homeless patients. DHS is tasked with the lofty objective of connecting housing subsidy recipients with the help they need for physical health, mental health, and substance abuse recovery. Additional services include crisis intervention, individualized case management, benefits establishment assistance, and resources for education and employment.
"We are pleased to partner with the County Department of Health Services in helping meet the needs of our most needy homeless neighbors," Steven M. Hilton, Chairman, President & CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation said in a press release. "We applaud the leadership of Dr. Katz and his team in demonstrating that funding supportive housing leads to better health outcomes and is more cost effective in the long run."
Over the past two decades, the Hilton Foundation has provided more than $80 million in grants to expand the availability of permanent supportive housing and end chronic homelessness. And $56 million of that $80 million has been focused on Los Angeles. It's become increasingly evident that chronically homeless residents with chronic medical and behavioral conditions use the most expensive emergency health services in Los Angeles.
Statistics show that these grants are paying off for taxpayers and the healthcare industry. For those utilizing DHS housing, there was a 77% reduction in homeless patient emergency room visits and an 85% reduction in impatient stays, resulting in an average cost savings of $32,000 per person each year. Los Angeles has the second highest homeless population in the country, at 53,800 individuals, according to the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report.